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New bill in Congress seeks to expand DOJ powers in animal abuse cases

The bill would allow the DOJ to step in and remove animals from harmful environments, as well as seek license suspensions, revocations and penalties.
New bill in Congress seeks to expand DOJ powers in animal abuse cases
Posted at 8:59 AM, Aug 21, 2023

A year ago, we introduced you to Nala, one of 4,000 beagles rescued from squalid conditions at a facility that was breeding animals for lab testing. Now, a bipartisan bill in Congress is trying to ensure something like that never happens again.

As for Nala, she's got a new home, a new name and a new lease on life.

"Roo!" her owner, Lisa Hall said, when asked about the name change. "[With an] exclamation point! Because everything about her is lively."

We first met Hall when she came to the Homeward Trails Animal Rescue in northern Virginia in July 2022.

She intended to adopt a puppy, but as we saw for ourselves, Roo found her instead.

"She beelined it for me," Hall said. "And I felt like she picked me and that was that."

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Roo is one of the 4,000 beagles rescued from an Envigo site in Virginia.

Animal rights groups uncovered animal welfare violations at the facility, which bred beagles destined for lab testing. Federal officials sued the facility, which eventually shut down and gave up the beagles.

Then came the mad dash to try and find homes for all 4,000 beagles.

"It was so exciting to have a piece in this operation to help get these 4,000 beagles to freedom," said Jennifer Eskra, legislative director of the Humane Society of the United States, which helped get all 4,000 of the beagles adopted across the country through a network of rescue partners.

They're now backing a new bipartisan bill, filed by Democrats and Republicans in both the U.S. House and Senate, called the Better CARE for Animals Act.

"It gives them this expanded toolbox of options that they currently are limited in their options under the Animal Welfare Act," Eskra said.

As it stands now, enforcement of the federal Animal Welfare Act falls mainly on the USDA.

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The new bill would give the Department of Justice the same ability and allow them to step in and remove animals experiencing harmful treatment, as well as seek license suspensions, revocations and civil penalties in those cases.

"This asks for collaboration and a united effort, and it would enable the DOJ to better step in more quickly, step in to help end unnecessary animal suffering," Eskra said.

In a divided Congress, they're hopeful about the bill's future.

"We think it has good prospects," Eskra said. "It's strong bipartisan leadership."

For Lisa Hall, the new bill is good news.

"I'm glad they're doing that," she said, while looking at Roo. "I sometimes look at her sweet little face, and I think of how she must have felt in that crate and the things that went on."

However, she added, that's all now in Roo's past. She now enjoys walking with Hall's two other dogs around their 130-acre farm.

"She's forgotten it all — at least I hope so," Hall said. "And all the other Envigo beagles — I'm in a Facebook group — they're all living a great life, too. Story after story. First you think, 'Nobody can love your dog as much as me,' and then you read about Frankie, or Violet, or another dog and you're like, 'They're all living great lives.'"

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